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The first sounds on Adam Butler's solo record Schmoozing are those of a crowd, probably the "après garde" of the title, which is subjected to an alien sawing sound, as though said crowd were being sawn through. A single note is played forcefully on a piano as if in annoyance at the chattering that surrounds it. The piano fills the sonic foreground. More notes twinkling into the upper registers are interrupted by distorted echoes. Down again and then welling upwards.
Butler projects a feeling of near-claustrophobia, as though the pianist and his instrument were hemmed into the corner of the room by the party going on around them. The pianist plays notes as though to push the mob away a little, to create a space in which to breathe. Occasional sonic treatments ease their way into Butler’s soundworld. It’s unclear whether they’re applied in the moment or in postproduction, probably the latter. Still the chatter continues like a stream of trivial but unstoppable energy.
As "Sprung" succeeds "Beein’ One Thing And Dooin’ Another," there’s no letup in the ambient noise, nor in the determination of the pianist to carry on regardless. He rings out gradual changes, working his way slowly up and down the keys. The music begins to distort like a smart stair carpet worn out by thousands of footfalls, as if the reality of the throng is winning out over the intentions of the musician. It’s a thankless task.
"Twiftopedie," written by German electronic duo Mouse On Mars, proceeds reflectively in Satie-like mode. Sounds of digital distortion dog the edges of the piano’s notes, the ambience into which the notes fall shivers as though the room were resizing at will. The music sounds as though it has finally accepted its role in events.
"Scope/Lifetime" is full of tentative prepared piano, metal objects on strings creating a far-Eastern feeling. Halfway through, a sunburst of electronic shimmering sound rises above and stimulates Butler into Roedelius-like activity. A merciful, momentary silence appears before the final track, which doesn’t make like any bakery truck I’ve ever encountered. It’s another mournful piece played in the detritus of a social event which is clearly on its last legs. The recording itself sounds similarly exhausted, breaking up as if conveyed to speakers via faulty wiring. There’s a simultaneously pathetic and poignant quality to the performance: that of sentiment unheeded, a swan caught in a discarded fishing line unseen by carousers on the riverbank.